Little Feelgood Moments
24 Jul 2018
In 2017 during his final year of IT at Griffith University, former Mayor’s Student Ambassador Josh Murchie attended a startup weekend organised by Study Gold Coast. Within the space of 12 months the seed of his idea had evolved into a fully fledged venture with investors and partners.
Little Phil (short for “Little Philanthropy”) is an app that uses blockchain to bridge the trust deficit between charities and those who donate their money to them.
“The idea came out of a few things”, says Josh, “a frustration of seeing online videos being shared about homeless people, but where nothing was really being done about it.
“After that it was the notion of marketing people grabbing me in the shopping centre asking me for money, or calling me when I’m making dinner. They’re not even the charity most of the time – they’re just a third party. Who isn’t annoyed by shopping centre touts and call centre telemarketers?”
After doing some research into how charity donations were actually spent Josh knew he had to do something about it.
“I was really shocked. In some cases 80 to 90 percent of the money collected goes to the guys in the shopping centres taking the money – nobody wants to see that. To me it’s disgusting. In the worst cases it was something like 93% of every dollar donated was being spent on fundraising costs.”
Overcoming Social Media Inertia
The challenge for this new venture was to remove the disconnect that Gen Y’s and Millennials have from what they’ve seen on social media by changing the perceptions around what a donation can be.
The key says Josh, was by focusing on the donor experience. “We want to make sure that the donors are engaged the whole time – that we’re feeding the donor’s needs and wants. For instance, when you donate through our platform you actually receive a picture message back that says: ‘thank you for your donation, you’ve just made a difference in someone’s life.’ The first thing you want to do when you’ve done something great is you either want to share it with your friends so they know, or share the post to channel more funds into the cause.”
Where the Money Goes
From Josh’s perspective it’s not just enough to feel good about what you’re doing, you need to know how your money is being spent.
“When I donate $10 to a cause, how do I know where the money goes? Is the guy on the street pocketing it? I really have no idea because there’s just no accountability. With blockchain it’s enforced by the technology, so there’s no way the money can be misplaced, it’s there forever in the ledger, which anyone can see. Trust is a major issue for younger people and in an era when you can track anything from your Uber to your Deliveroo pizza you should be able to see exactly where your money is going in the charity industry. By using blockchain technology and designing the user interface around the donors we can provide them with the same kind of experience.”
The app works by listing charities into areas of interest like children, animals and the environment. From there it’s broken down into specific fundraising needs like health and education. Josh says that in this way the donor decides exactly where their money goes while following its progress.
“You can go in search of what you care about on an individual level, to the point where you can find a child who’s been displaced through war in Syria. You’ll find a list of the children, a picture of the child where possible and some information about that particular child.
“You may choose to donate $20 towards the school books for that child. You then see that an order has been placed with the supplier of the school books, which is then held in escrow. Only the charity worker on the ground can then confirm they’ve received those school books. When that happens, you’re notified with a confirmation message.”
Exploitation or Enterprise?
At the end of the day Little Phil is still a business, but Josh has no qualms about creating a business model that depends on charitable donations.
“Our model is a flat 6% fee, there are no hidden costs. The thing is, some older charities think people really care about their brand, but from our research while a lot of people may recognise the brand, they don’t know what the charity actually does. We’re charity agnostic. We want to work with charities who understand that we’re connecting them with a new demographic. There’s no technology cost for the charity or the development of it, we’ve already done that for them.”
As for the potential of charities using Little Phil’s database to pursue further donations, Josh is clear:
“This is not about giving them a database of clients so that they can approach them separately and say, ‘hey, how about giving us some more money?’ What they’re doing now simply doesn’t work, that’s why the model needs to be changed.
“It’s all about ‘Little Phil good moments’ – that is, little feelgood moments that will make you want to come back and donate because you had such a good experience last time. We’ve turned the whole thinking around of charity donations being something that you do because you feel guilty, to doing something because it makes you feel good. That’s our premise. For us it’s all about the user experience.”
*If you’d like to support the Little Phil project visit www.littlephil.org, or reach out via one of their social media platforms.